Why am I Angry?
While some struggle with anger in a very apparent and constant way, most of us battle with anger in more selected environments, particular circumstances, or specific people and we often have difficulty discerning why. We also are probably sinfully anger more often than we would care to admit. Just an increased awareness of this emotion in our own hearts would most likely reveal even shocking amounts of anger in our own hearts on a weekly basis.
But how do we understand anger? We know that Jesus equated anger with murdering our brother in our hearts, but it does not feel like “murder” to us. We think of it in terms of “irritation”, “annoyance”, or even being “mad”. Whether your anger looks like pouting, yelling, an irritated tone of voice, stomping off, the cold shoulder, or even just pretending like everything is fine, the root of sinful anger is the beliefs and thoughts that come from the heart.
Many people address this by “trying to not feel angry”, which is just about the most impossible endeavor known to man because it is trying to cure the disease by merely wiping the sweat off our face. We try to save ourselves the embarrassment of mean words and attitudes slipping out. Instead, we should take the opportunity to pause and evaluate our beliefs about God, others, and ourselves which cause it. Carolyn Mahaney describes it well, “So emotions that seem unreasonable or irrational are in fact true expressions of an irrational belief or an unreasonable value. We may feel like our emotions are making us crazy, but the real culprits are the beliefs and values from which the emotions spring” (True Feelings). Or in Jesus’ words, “That which proceeds out of the man, that is what defiles the man. For from within, out of the heart of men, proceed the evil thoughts, fornications, …” (Mark 7:20-23) He would agree that anger is only a symptom of an issue of the heart.
Anger is nearly always the result of an inflated view of ourselves, which leads us to believe that we deserve to be treated a specific way by God or other people: or at least that we have certain rights which we will not tolerate to be violated. Anger arises “because we are sinners inclined to make ourselves the center of the universe and to judge those who do not submit to our will” (My Anger is Out of Control, Jim Newheiser). There is no end to what we think we deserve! And how often that burning sense of self-vindication boils when we are slighted; we who believe we deserve only kindness from others and for life to be smooth and easy!
But the only way to really replace our sinful and destructive anger with kindness and mercy is to remember how great the chasm is between God’s perfect goodness and our sinfulness, which deserves so much more punishment than we will ever receive as Christians (1 Timothy 1:15); and to dwell on the shocking grace of God which He was not obligated to bestow upon us, but surrendered His rights in humility, so that we may live (Matthew 18:23-27, Philippians 2:3-8, 2 Corinthians 5:21). How could we continue to demand life to go our way, when we reflect on the willing sufferings of Christ for our sake? We must repent of the attitude of arrogance, which manifests itself in anger, rather than just trying to dilute our emotions. We must put off those self-exalting thoughts, which cause so much damage to our relationships, and put on humility of mind and heart, which will result in treating others like Christ treated us, even when we are wronged just as Christ was.